Mold on a strawberry

One of my favorite pieces of science equipment is our microscope.  I bought the 3088F-I microscope from Great Scopes over 5 years ago and it was worth every penny.  The grand total was under $300 back in 2010 and it doesn’t look their prices have changed.  If you contact them and let them know you are a homeschooler they will give you a 10% discount (at least they used to).  Make sure you get the mechanical stage on the microscope so you can move the slide around by tiny amounts. There’s not much point in getting a microscope with out a moving stage.   This scope only lights up the slide from below, but you can turn that light off and shine a flash light on your slide from above and get great real color views like the photo to the right of mold growing on a strawberry.  This is the gray fuzzy stuff you see on rotting strawberries, its actually quite beautiful!

Microscope-Cover-SMWhen we first got the microscope, I taught a short summer class where we did a microscope unit study called Microscope Adventure by Kym Wright. Its only $15.95 for the ebook (I’m a big fan of ebooks since it allows me to print out the worksheets for both of my boys and not have to scan/copy them).  This is a great unit study and it is secular (not all of her unit studies are secular).  Microscope Adventures teaches you the parts of the microscope, how to make slides, and clean up afterward.

Pollen
Pollen

The different labs include collecting dust and fibers from around the house,  fungus, leaves and pollen from outside; skin cells and hair off your body and of course dead bugs from window sills.  She also includes a nice list of books for supplemental reading.  I highly recommend going through at least some of this unit study when you first get your microscope.   Kym Wright’s Botany Adventure! was also excellent – we did a whole year on botany at my son’s request.  The only other unit study I have purchased from her was Bird Adventure! which was NOT secular and we ended up not using.

A set of prepared slides is also nice to have because its really hard to make thin slices of some things and it might be hard to find a volunteer to give lung tissue!  We’ve been collecting sets of slides for 5 years and now have a plastic shoe box full: botany slides, human

Insect eye
Insect eye

anatomy, marine life, reproduction (mitosis and meiosis), etc.  They can be pretty expensive so I usually wait til I see them on sale.  Home Science Tools has some nice sets and you can buy blank slides and cover slips from them as well. I also recommend buying at least one box of concave slides for looking at pond water.    I also traded science supplies with another homeschool science teacher one year. She had a great set of beakers, graduated cylinders, and chemicals that I borrowed for Chemistry and she borrowed a bunch of my slides and books for a botany class.  So if you’re looking for science equipment its worth asking your local homeschool group if you anyone has some you can borrow.

triops
triops

The other purchase you should make if you buy a microscope is a smart phone adapter. I got the Carson HookUpz Universal Adapter last year and we used it a lot in the biology class. I can also use it on my telescope and binoculars.  It comes with a nice storage case.   All the microscope photos on this page were taken with my iPhone 5 and the Carson adapter. I usually take my case off to use the adapter because it can’t get a good grip on my bumpy case.

It doesn’t happen as much now, but my boys would frequently find something in the yard, a dead bug, a leaf, flower parts and ask to look at it under the microscope.  They’re just a great tool to have around and can really spark an interest in science.

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